Mar 3, 5:38 AM EST

Yemen's leader suggests Riyadh for dialogue with rebels


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Yemen's leader suggests Riyadh for dialogue with rebels

Hadi, once-quiet leader of Yemen, strikes newly defiant pose

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SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- Yemen's president on Tuesday offered the Saudi capital Riyadh as a possible venue for the resumption of U.N.-sponsored talks with Shiite rebels who have seized Yemen's own capital Sanaa.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi made the offer during a meeting with tribal leaders from the southern Abyan province, according to two participants and an aide to the president who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

They said Hadi offered the headquarters of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh as an alternative venue if the Houthi rebels continue to oppose moving the talks from Sanaa, which has been under their control since September, to either Aden or Taiz in the south.

Hadi has been based in Aden since last month, when he escaped house arrest in Sanaa. He remains popular in the once-independent south, which is not under the control of the northern-based rebels.

The Iranian-backed Houthis are almost certain to reject moving the talks to Riyadh given Saudi Arabia's opposition to their power grab in its southern neighbor.

The GCC comprises Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. It was a GCC plan that forced Hadi's predecessor, longtime autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh, to hand over power following an Arab Spring-inspired uprising.

Hadi called for the relocation of foreign embassies to Aden, as several GCC members and European nations have done already. The U.S. ambassador to Yemen met with the embattled Hadi in Aden on Monday, reflecting Washington's continuing support for the president.

Ambassador Matthew Tueller, the first Western diplomat to visit Hadi since he fled Sanaa, said Hadi is the "legitimate" leader of Yemen.

The Houthis meanwhile suffered heavy casualties in clashes with al-Qaida militants in the central Bayda province south of Sanaa, according to security officials and residents. They said at least 25 Houthi rebels were killed at three different locations in the province. They said at least seven militants were killed in the fighting that erupted early Tuesday.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

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